How to Create an Effective Content Marketing Plan: Kevan Lee from Buffer

Content marketers often get buried in numbers while generating quality B2B leads for a SaaS. They get busy trying to find a perfect formula which brings the highest ROI to their business. 

We invited Kevan Lee, the Director of Marketing at Buffer, to speak about Content Marketing. In this podcast, he shares some valuable insights on how Buffer cracked the formula to become one of the best tools available in social media space!

Why is Content Marketing important?

While juggling between different content marketing ideas to reach out to the target audience, generating quality leads, and boosting conversions, marketers forget the purpose of creating content – deliver value to your audience through worthy information.

You don’t have to have a great product or service, nor do you require to be the cheapest service provider. All you have to do is crack the formula that makes you the best seller.

85% of B2B marketers consider lead generation their top challenge.

The question arises: what are the factors that help content marketers find the best formulas to sell their product or service in the best way? What are important things they easily miss out on while building a content marketing plan?

How Buffer implemented Viral Marketing through content

Buffer doesn’t follow the typical lead capture and nurture business model. Their marketing goals are focused entirely on building authority in the social media space by influencing users through quality content.

One of the ways to do this is viral marketing or word-of-mouth marketing. Though it may be a bit hard to measure the results, viral marketing brings in customers who stay with you for longer periods of time.

On asking why Buffer opted for viral marketing, Kevan draws an example from a conversation he had with the MailChimp team. Today, if marketers think of anything related to email, MailChimp is the first name that pops in their head.

Buffer wanted to do exactly this – get mentioned every time marketers speak about social media. The idea was to create an impact on the target audience in a way that ‘Buffer’ and ‘social media tool’ become synonymous for marketers.

How Buffer generated quality leads from content

One of the most important and challenging factors in content marketing is finding a target audience in the niche.

We asked Kevan how B2B, SaaS companies can find their niche across various platforms the way Buffer did. According to him, finding a niche is a long journey. You need to start by finding what kind of content would work for your brand across various platforms.

Step 1: Build an authority in your niche

Buffer started creating content (articles, videos, reports, whitepapers – you name it!) on life hacks and productivity tips on a large scale.

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This activity helped them rank up their domain authority and get new backlinks from quality websites. This also improved Buffer's brand awareness, especially as a growing startup. But these exercises didn't drive many conversions, nor did it establish Buffer as the best tool for marketers in the social media space.

Step 2: Drive relevant traffic by talking about your user's problems

This required them to change their content marketing strategy. Buffer's team now started writing high-quality content on social media practices – something very relevant to their niche. The previous content plan worked in building a foundation for their blog and this approach helped them reach the right people.

Kevan Lee advises generating content which is very closely tied to the product. Your content should be able to provide a solution to a problem that your target audience faces often. And then, you would pitch your brand as one of the best solutions to that particluar problem.

Step 3: Learn from your competitors

Kevan also adds that keeping a close eye on the competitors helps you find the right audience for your brand. Watch their strategies, observe and learn how they target their audience through social and other channels.

What is Buffer's content distribution strategy?

On asking about what distribution strategy works best for Buffer, Kevan talks about the early days when they created a series of guest posts for other websites and reached out to people who would help them pitch these blogs to other big websites.

Next, they worked hard on distributing their content to their existing userbase through newsletters and emails. Kevan aimed to grow the email list to at least 100,000 emails. This helped their articles get the initial traction which is needed to rank high on organic search engine result pages (SERPs). Now, a major chunk of Buffer's traffic comes only from organic search.

Main focus points in Buffer's marketing funnel

Kevan shows us how to break the content plan into a three-part funnel. He shares some examples from their own content strategy:

The middle of their funnel is inclined more toward social media tactics. Buffer created a series of "how-to" articles aimed at educating their audience about social media marketing. Some of these articles also involved using Buffer as a solution. They maintained a 5:1 ratio while creating blogs for these two parts and kept analyzing their users' website behavior. This feedback was given to the top of the funnel for optimization.

Kevan adds that their target audience was social media marketers, and he wanted to deliver quality content to them since they are Buffer's customers. The idea was to share as much valuable content with the managers that they can use in their everyday work life. This meant they had to focus on only one part of the funnel – to drive traffic to content which is targeted to social media managers.

"Don't expect anything major to happen in the first six months, and don't expect anything really significant to happen for at least a year"

Kevan Lee, Director of Marketing, Buffer

Buffer's secret recipe for content-driven growth

Kevan points out that a major part of Buffer's content marketing strategy is to keep a mix of trending articles and rich keyword based articles.

When you need to write about trending topics, it is not a good idea to stick to only well-searched keywords. The focus should also be on providing relevant and vital information to your niche segment. In Buffer's scenario, it was social media marketers.

Keeping a good mix of both assures that you don't miss out on anything important – whether it is just a quick update on social media marketing or an in-depth article or a video on the solutions.

Buffer prioritizes value over ROI

On asking how Buffer calculates their ROI of their content marketing activities, Kevan shares that their main focus is not on ROI.

Confused?

Buffer believes in sharing valuable content with their audience. They don't tie investments with their content marketing strategy.

Kevan believes that content marketing is not something that one can chase and measure with hard numbers.

There are several factors to check your ROI. This can include calculating how much you're investing in your writers, blog hosting fees, and even the tools or plugins you're subscribing to. Any amount of money spent on creating content should be a factor in the formula to calculate ROI.

Buffer's content marketing strategy: 80% creation and 20% distribution

Kevan shares his inputs on how they allocate time for curation and content distribution in Buffer.

According to him, curation is all about researching – keyword volume, trends, click volume, competition, etc. On the other hand, creation is entirely about churning content in the form of articles, videos, or infographics, based on the research done by the curation team.

While it is the norm to spend 20% of your time in creating an article and 80% of your time distributing it, Buffer implements it the other way round, i.e. 20% time for distribution, and 80% time for creation.

Kevan tells that they distribute content through search engines. Their main focus is to create SEO rich content. They make sure they add the right keywords, do researching on the subject, and implement on-page SEO the right way.

For Buffer, Kevan adds, content marketing has always been a great way to generate high-quality leads. They focussed on providing value to their customers, which in return, helped Buffer grow their customer base and lifetime value.

“Content is the reason search began in the first place. Content gave birth to search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.”

Lee Odden

Customer support is the key to find user behavior

Kevan says customer support is a great way to find out why your users are loyal to you.

Some factors that add to customer loyalty are:

  • how easy your tool or app is to use and implement,
  • the performance of your product vs your competitors,
  • culture practiced and preached by your company, and
  • the company philosophy and brand motto

There are a few retention loops within the product which helps Buffer's customers stick around. NPS surveys assist the product team in gauging who their loyal customers are. They then chart out the "perfect path" taken by these customers – the activities they did, the pages they clicked, the features they tried and based on this, Buffer pushes other users to this critical path and similar kinds of activities within the product.

Customer support plays a very vital role in providing the product team with these insights. In fact, Buffer has a dedicated person for all their community outreach. This has led to great results for Buffer.

Key takeaways from this podcast

  1. Be patient with your content experiments – all good things take time.
  2. Always aim to add value to your users and build a lasting relationship with them, which will ultimately lead them to become loyal customers.
  3. Spend 80% of your time in curating and creating valuable content and 20% time in distribution. If your content is SEO rich, search engines will do the hard work for you.
  4. Take inputs from your customer support team. It can help you determine a critical path that your users take on your product.
Pulkit Jain

Pulkit Jain

Engineer • Marketer • Tech Geek • Movie & Comic book nerd • Avid reader • Gaming Addict • Football fanatic #GGMU

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